All Them Witches – Live On the Internet

3 out of 5

Label: New West Records

Produced by: Mikey Allred (engineered, mixed, mastered by)

I read an All Them Witches review, and I checked out some bandcamp songs, and I approved. Being super late to all games, this was around the release of Nothing As The Ideal, which I purchased, and added to my pile of things to listen to. Before I had the opportunity, their 2-CD Live On the Internet set was released – a pandemic-workaround live recording, doing a radio station session in lieu of being able to do their usual post-album touring – and I picked that up as well. Due to a quirk with how my listening pile is approached, Live On the Internet ended up being the first, full ATW album to which I would listen.

Another quirk: I’m not a great fan of live albums.

That means two quirks are strikes working against me, here: I have a bias against the format, and then I’m not entering into a live set with familiarity with the songs, which is kind of a prerequisite, often, for enjoying live albums.

My listening experience here had me admittedly underwhelmed. All Them Witches undeniably rock, and it’s clear from the recording that no trickery is employed to knock out these tight rhythms: perfect percussion; really warm, impassioned vocals; amazing solos. But the first disc from this set was leaving me a little cold – appreciating the craft from afar, but not really getting into it as much as I recalled from what I’d previously sampled. The second disc would correct that a bit, and I also noticed that if I listened through a song at a time – play a live track, switch to another band, flip back to an ATW track – then it was landing. Comparing songs to their studio versions laid further bare what I think is happening: that I’m not a great fan of live albums. Heh.

While the group minimally steps on their material, there’s undeniably something to the studio mixes that help to play up / down different elements, making the songs a bit “punchier,” and helping to add some more range to frontman Charles Michael Parks Jr.’s voice which, while capable of range, he tends to wield at a similar cadence and tone for most songs. In a live setting, then, for someone first hearing this stuff, strung together, it can be a little flat – repeating similar muted riffs-to-long-solos structures and general melodies. Sequencing also doesn’t help out, as this set promotes two long bookend tracks – an album ender and an opener – pretty close together, and these songs also have a similar cadence, so it really feels like they do one epic (which rocks!) and then come out for an encore two minutes later to do it again. (It still rocks, but we just kinda heard it…?)

On disc 2, some vocal effects are applied, and the material steps off the stoner rock track for some poppier and boogie-er elements; it’s a nice shake up, and starts feeling more recognizable as the group which encouraged me to buy several albums mostly blind after hearing a couple of singles. But we do get back to that moderately staid middleground of solid, sounds-alike rock on the latter half.

So I’m a studio guy, it seems. However, given the depth of the group’s catalogue from which these songs are culled, going old and new with the songs, and how hard-hitting they are individually, I look forward to coming back to the album after I’ve had a few more ATW listens under my belt, and nod my head along with memories of the polished and produced versions.